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Thanks to Nobel Winner, These Families Thrive
Gwendolyn Holmes knew a thing or two about in vitro fertilization.
But until Monday morning, she’d never heard of British scientist Robert Edwards.
She was running errands when she learned Edwards had just won the Nobel Prize in medicine for developing in vitro, which has helped in the conception and birth of 4 million people worldwide since the first “test tube baby” in 1978.
That number includes Holmes’ 11-month-old twins, who were buckled in their car seats, and her 4-year-old son, whom she’d just dropped off at day care.
“Because of him, people like me and my husband are able to move forward with the blessing of a family,” Holmes said. “My attitude is gratitude.”
Edwards, an 85-year-old professor emeritus at the University of Cambridge, started working on IVF as early as the 1950s. He developed the technique — in which eggs are removed from a woman, fertilized outside her body and then implanted into the womb — with British gynecologist surgeon Patrick Steptoe, who died in 1988.
Prize committee secretary Goran Hansson told The Associated Press that Edwards was not in good health when the committee tried to reach him.
“I spoke to his wife, and she was delighted and she was sure he would be delighted, too,” Hansson said in Stockholm after announcing the 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) award.
The first baby born using the technique was Louise Brown in Britain. Now 32, Brown gave birth in 2007 to her first child, a boy named Cameron who she said was conceived naturally.
About 300,000 babies are born worldwide using the technique each year, according to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.
The probability that an infertile couple will take home a baby after a cycle of IVF is 1 in 5, about the same odds that healthy couples have of conceiving naturally.